ABAC upholds hard lemonade complaint

Alcohol advertising watchdog ABAC has upheld a complaint against the marketing of Boston Brewing Co’s Peach Lemonade.

The decision highlights the issues around the branding and design of drinking in the RTD category which has a resurgence following the launch of Lion’s QuincyandBrookvale Union’s Vodka and Peach Iced Tea last year, followed by a host of others from independent and big brewers alike.

The complaint related to the packaging of the hard lemonade product, and an Instagram post in which it was featured.

The complainant wrote to ABAC that the packaging names the product Peach Lemonade, making it look like a soft drink. The complaint also argued that the marketing doesn’t mention the alcohol content or that it is in the alcohol category. As such, the complainant said it would have strong or evident appeal to minors, which is banned under the ABAC code.

Boston Brewing responded by saying that the can design as a whole does show the alcohol content, but that in relation to the social media post, “children should not be on our Facebook or Instagram pages”.

“I think it raises more concerns relating to parenting and what children are able to access,” a representative from Boston Brewing wrote to ABAC.

“Regarding whether it is in a fridge at a parent’s house this is also a concern around the parents.

“If a child is able to read the word “lemonade” then they should also be at an age that they are able to understand what they are allowed to drink and what is for their parents or it should be kept out of reach.”

However Boston Brewing did concede that the post should specify that the lemonade was alcoholic, and said they would change the label on the next printing run to reflect this.

It said it would take advantage of the ABAC pre-vetting process for this new packaging design, and amended its social media posts to reflect this.

ABAC responded noting Boston’s planned changes. It said that the ABAC judges take a number of considerations into account when determining whether the packaging of an alcohol product could be appealing to minors – everything from names, colours, fonts and imagery to descriptors and style of the can or container.

The panel noted that ABAC does not explicitly demand that packaging is unambiguously identified as alcoholic, but said this would be a contributing factor in its decision making.

In the end though, it said that while the colour and style of the packaging would not be attractive to minors, it could reasonably be confused with a soft drink, a “popular drink for minors”. The panel ruled that the packaging does not identify the product as alcoholic, and there are other cues which are “neutral at best” and when combined with the use of the word lemonade, a reasonable person could think it would appeal to minors.

ABAC ruled that both the packaging and Instagram post breached the code.

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